Best Foods For Your Immune System

By Last Updated: February 17th, 202410.5 min readViews: 2372

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About the Author: Daryl Stubbs
Daryl Stubbs
Daryl Stubbs is a multi-disciplinary health professional, combining his roles as an award-winning athletic therapist, registered massage therapist, and certified holistic nutritionist to offer a comprehensive approach to wellness. Graduating in 2013, Daryl has been recognized as the best massage therapy clinic in Victoria for 2022 and 2023 and has received national athletic therapy awards. He is known for his holistic approach to health, focusing on treating the body as a whole. Clients appreciate his focus on the science of probiotics, supplements, gut health, and the human body, ensuring a well-informed and evidence-based approach to their wellness journey.

Your immune system is responsible for protecting your body from harmful pathogens that can make you sick. It’s always important to keep your immune system functioning at its best, but it’s especially crucial during cold and flu season or times of increased stress. One of the best ways to support your immune system is by eating a healthy diet that includes immune-boosting foods. In this article, we’ll explore some of the best foods to eat to help your immune system stay strong and healthy.

The Best Foods To Boost Your Immune System

Everyone knows a strong immune system helps you avoid the common cold.

Did you know that immunity is so powerful it can protect you against cancer? And if you do have cancer, your immune system is capable of eliminating it completely from your body, even if it has spread.

Factors such as genetics, smoking, environmental toxins, and a bad diet are often blamed for cancer.

Regardless of its cause, cancer only becomes a disease once malignant cells escape from being destroyed by our immune system.

Our immune system is one of the best-known health defence systems we have.

It keeps us from becoming infected after we have a cut, fights off viruses, and prevents us from getting sick from harmful microbes coughed into the air by a coworker.

Research shows that several foods support the immune system and battle against the inflammation triggered by stress or common illnesses.

There’s probably a good chance that you’ve eaten many of the following foods. If you haven’t this is a perfect time to add them to your shopping list.

Why Is The Immune System Important?

Before we dive into the best foods for boosting your immune system, let’s first discuss why the immune system is so important.

The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend your body against foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.

When your immune system is working properly, it can identify and neutralize these threats before they have a chance to cause illness or disease.

However, when the immune system is weakened or compromised, it can’t function properly, leaving you vulnerable to infection and illness.

That’s why it’s so important to support your immune system by eating a healthy diet and adopting other healthy lifestyle habits.

Foods That Boost Your Immune System

Viruses, like the common cold and influenza, cause inflammation in the body.

That inflammatory response can be a double-edged sword:

While it helps the body fight off infection, it can also cause serious problems that can contribute to lung damage and even death.

Many research studies suggest that modulating the inflammatory response could be key to improving health outcomes.

In addition, experiencing stress can cause an inflammatory response in the brain, which triggers the release of glucocorticoids, a class of steroid hormones.

If you’re in a constant state of chronic stress, your body can suffer from long-term inflammation – which can increase the risk of heart disease and is associated with a higher risk of cancerdiabetes, and other chronic conditions.

Many research studies have explored the impact that diet can have on a healthy gut microbiome – the complex gastrointestinal ecosystem made up of trillions of viruses, fungi, bacteria, and other bugs.

A healthy gut ecosystem supports the body’s immune function.

Because food directly affects these microorganisms, either encouraging or suppressing their growth, researchers have explored which foods support a healthy microbiome.

Some of these foods include:

  • Fermented foods, including yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, and kefir
  • Whole-grain, high-fibre foods
  • Monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil
  • Polyphenol-rich foods, including fruit, vegetables, seeds, tea, cocoa products, and wine

Pomegranate juice is loaded with the beneficial bacteria Akkermansia.

It is one of the thousands of types of bacteria that reside in the human gut microbiomeAkkermansia has numerous benefits, one of them being immune support. These powerful bacteria predict the best response to cancer immunotherapy of any gut bacteria. People who have Akkermansia in their digestive tract are more likely to fight cancer on their own.

Generally speaking, the Mediterranean diet has the best research behind it for overall health and improving many health conditions. It includes healthy fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, fibre, and smaller amounts of protein, which is associated with a healthier gut microbiome.

Antioxidants are powerful molecules that are necessary to decrease inflammation and fight off disease.

You can think of these as little Pacman in the body, they go are and gobble up the inflammation.

You can consume these in foods you typically eat or from supplements.

Three key antioxidants – zinc and vitamins C and D – play crucial roles in helping protect the body’s cells from damage. 

Antioxidants are commonly found in just about all types of fruit and dark, leafy greens.

Most salad greens, kale, and spinach include vitamins A, C, E, K, and folate, as well as high levels of fibre and immune-supportive minerals.

These foods are also low in carbs, sodium, and cholesterol, making them a quadruple win.

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, and lemons are loaded with vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage and aids in the production of white blood cells, which are critical for fighting off infections.

Red bell peppers

High in vitamin C, red bell peppers and hot chilli peppers have antimicrobial properties that protect against viruses and other microorganisms.

Broccoli

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that’s packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as antioxidants and fiber. It also contains sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to have anti-cancer properties.

Garlic

Garlic is an effective antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial, making it a go-to ingredient for a healthy immune system.

Research shows that garlic helps reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms.

Chop or crush the cloves and let them sit out for 10 minutes – which helps convert alliin to allicin, the protective element in garlic ­– and add to sauces, soups, appetizers, or whatever you’re cooking.

Aged garlic is a food that I commonly recommend adding into your cooking whenever possible because it boasts impressive defence-supporting compounds such as apigenin.

In a randomized control trial conducted by the University of Florida Gainesville, some participants were assigned an aged garlic extract while others were assigned a placebo for 90 days. At the end of the study, the subjects who consumed the garlic had more immune cells circulating in their bloodstream.

Ginger

You’re able to find ginger in powdered form or fresh in the produce section of grocery stores, ginger root contains a substance called gingerol, which has been shown to help inhibit inflammation.

Some studies have found that gingerol improves cardiovascular disorders and gastrointestinal health and helps reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.

Spinach

Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that’s rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta carotene. It’s also a good source of folate, which is important for DNA synthesis and cell division.

Yogurt

Yogurt is a probiotic food that’s rich in beneficial bacteria, which can help improve gut health and boost immune function. Look for yogurt that contains live and active cultures, and avoid varieties that are high in added sugars.

Almonds

Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. They’re also high in protein and healthy fats, making them a satisfying and nutritious snack.

Green tea

Green tea is loaded with antioxidants called catechins, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It may also help boost immune function and improve heart health.

Turmeric

Maybe the most known spice widely used in cooking in India and derived from a ginger-family perennial plant, turmeric packs a double punch as both an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. Turmeric provides a polyphenol known as curcumin.

Polyphenols are a group of compounds high in antioxidants that are found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.

Curcumin has been well studied for the health benefits it provides, including the ability to suppress inflammation and help manage conditions such as arthritis, anxiety, and exercise-induced muscle soreness. It has also been shown to help memory and mood.

Shellfish

Shellfish like oysters, crab, and shrimp are high in zinc, a mineral that’s important for immune function. Zinc helps produce and activate immune cells, and may also help reduce the duration and severity of colds and other infections.

Papaya

Papaya is a tropical fruit that’s rich in vitamin C, as well as other nutrients like beta carotene and potassium. It may also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and may help improve digestion and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer.

Papaya

Before we dive into the best foods for boosting your immune system, let’s first discuss why the immune system is so important.

The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend your body against foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.

When your immune system is working properly, it can identify and neutralize these threats before they have a chance to cause illness or disease.

However, when the immune system is weakened or compromised, it can’t function properly, leaving you vulnerable to infection and illness.

That’s why it’s so important to support your immune system by eating a healthy diet and adopting other healthy lifestyle habits.

Berries

Berries are a nutrient-dense food that can have positive impacts on immune function and disease prevention. According to a study , berries are a great source of polyphenols, which are bioactive compounds that are thought to improve immune function and reduce inflammation. These polyphenols, specifically anthocyanins, have been linked to the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, berries are also a source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which all have the potential to improve immune function and reduce the risk of disease.

The antioxidants in berries can also help protect against oxidative stress, which can lead to inflammation and the development of certain diseases.

Overall, the consumption of berries can have a beneficial effect on immune function and disease prevention.

Dark chocolate

Researchers have looked into the possible health benefits of dark chocolate, especially how it affects the immune system.

A study published in 2016 in the journal Nutrients found that dark chocolate helps keep the immune system healthy. In particular, flavonoids, which are found in dark chocolate, are known to have antioxidant properties that can reduce inflammation and boost the body’s natural defences.

Studies have also shown that dark chocolate can help prevent viral and bacterial infections by making the body make more cytokines, which are important for fighting off pathogens.

Dark chocolate also has minerals like zinc, selenium, and magnesium that are good for you and thought to help your immune system.

Research has shown that dark chocolate can help the body deal with stress better, which can help the immune system fight off disease better.

Overall, it has been found that dark chocolate is good for the immune system, and its protective properties should be looked into more.

Shiitake mushrooms.

Eating shiitake mushrooms increases the levels of natural killer cells and immunoglobulin A, two important immune system components for fighting off viral attacks.

How To Boost Your Immune System With Diet

You can boost your immune system by choosing citrus fruits, vibrant fruits and vegetables, and fermented foods.

Diet is one way to strengthen your immune system, but it is even more effective when combined with physical activity, stress reduction techniques, and proper sleep hygiene.

A sedentary lifestyle has proven to be damaging to the immune system.

Try 20 minutes of walking in nature.

When you’re feeling stressed or sick, it’s common to not eat well or let your diet go by the wayside.

Eating the right foods can have a substantial impact on boosting immunity and decreasing inflammation in your body.

Don’t forget that the reverse is also true, unhealthy foods (especially processed sugars) have been shown to increase levels of C-reactive protein, a biomarker of inflammation in the blood.

And the reverse is true, too: unhealthy foods – especially processed sugars – have been shown to increase levels of C-reactive protein, a biomarker of inflammation in the blood. There’s no magic solution that will cure every virus – but a healthy diet is your best first line of defence.

 

 

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